New Delhi: Thirty years after mobs demolished a historic masjid in Ayodhya, triggering a wave of sectarian bloodshed that saw thousands killed, fundamentalist Indian Hindu groups are eyeing other Muslim sites even world-famous Taj Mahal.
Emboldened under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aided by courts and fuelled by social media, fringe groups believe sites were built on top of Hindu temples, which they consider representations of India’s “true” religion.
Currently most in danger is centuries-old Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, one of world’s oldest continually inhabited cities, where Hindus are cremated by Ganges.
Last week reports claimed a leaked court-mandated survey of masjid had discovered a shivalinga, a phallic representation of Hindu god Shiva at site.
“This means that is site of a temple,” government minister Kaushal Kishore, a member of Modi’s BJP party told local media, saying that Hindus should now pray there.
Muslims have already been banned from performing ablutions in water tank where alleged relic masjid authorities say it is a fountain was found.
Fear now is that Islamic place of worship will go way of Ayodhya masjid, which Hindu groups believe was built on birthplace of Ram, another deity.
Despite no credible evidence, they believe that 17th-century mausoleum was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan on site of a Shiva shrine.
This month a court petition was filed by a member of Modi’s party trying to force India’s archaeological body, ASI to open up 20 rooms inside, believing they contained Hindu idols. ASI said there were no such idols and court summarily dismissed petition. But it was not first such case and it is unlikely to be last.
“I will continue to fight for this till my death,” Jat said. “We respect courts but if needed we will demolish Taj and prove existence of a temple there.”
On Thursday a court agreed to hear a lawsuit demanding removal of masjid, one of a slew of similar petitions. Police in northern city have been put on alert.
Another is Delhi’s Qutub Minar, a 13th-century minaret and victory tower built by Mamluk dynasty, also from Central Asia. Some Hindu groups believe it was constructed by a Hindu king and that complex housed more than 25 temples.